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’10 Favourite Reads Highlight

As per the the recent post on rating, and the halfway mark of the year calls for a mini review of books read in 2010, I’m looking through the right sidebar-ful of books and ask myself a simple question?

What do I remember about this book?

Since it’s irrelevant (and almost unfair) to compare books from different genres (i.e. A mystery with many twists and turns that entertains vs. a literary fiction that is redolent of its beautiful writing), I turn to the extent to which a book makes an impression on me. As Buried in Print has truly nailed it in a recent comment, the guage is really a matter of admiring or adoring. Out of the 46 read so far this year, the books, whether it’s the story or the prose styling, that still linger vividly in my mind are:

Lives of the Circus Animals Christopher Bram: What begins as a series of disconnected scenes quickly develops into a densely integrated plot which coalesces into a rousing, swiftly paced (events take place over ten days) comedy of manners—and errors.

Emma Jane Austen: Even the most impartial, infallible person could not pass an unbiased judgment when romantic feeling is involved. Inventions of emotional engagement contribute to the comedy of errors that are revealed to readers by way of the ironic detachment of the narrator.

Death with Interruptions Jose Saramago: As people cope with the crisis by humanizing death to mitigate their fear: calling its name, demanding a frank and open dialogue with death, mocking its treachery, death itself humanizes and gives up her dominion.

A Meeting by the River Christopher Isherwood: It provokes deep thoughts on love and need: Is the need to be needed stronger than love? It challenges the validity of marriage’s being the norm for civil union, when the meaning of marriage fails to acknowledge the human capacity to love.

East of Eden John Steinbeck: It is a story about love and how one perceives love. Through a family romance, with betrayal and denial, Steinbeck explores how humans can spend a lifetime trying to decipher their expressions of love. But whether one is really loved sometimes cannot be known. The only love one feels is the love one feels for someone else.

Fingersmith Sarah Waters: Waters has downplayed the romance, focusing on the layers of secrets to be revealed carefully. The ingénue of Fingersmith lays in her execution, juxtaposing facts and events that would otherwise contribute to an ordinary tale of chicanery and betrayal.

Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck: The novel suggests that the most visible kind of strength—that used to oppress others—is itself born of weakness. This is made the most obvious in the interaction between Crooks (the black with a crooked back) and Lennie.

A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry: As the characters move from distrust to friendship and friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of human spirits, full of courage, sacrifice, and generosity, in the face of pervasive misery.

Molly Fox’s Birthday Deirdre Madden: In one day’s time, Madden prises the well-guarded nutshells of her three characters, the three friends, who are connected mostly deeply through their emotionally charged moments, in which they comfort, console, and communicate one another in career bumps, failed marriage, unspoken affection, and family tensions.

Noble House James Clavell: Clavell weaves many intricate story lines into a coherent pattern. Complexity, how these plots bear no resemblance of any connection, compels me to read on. Unlike many half-baked popular fiction, the characters in Noble House are etched and developed, duly reflecting the biracial and colonial psyche of the last British overseas sovereignty.

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12 Responses

  1. East of Eden and Of Mice and Men are both FANTASTIC. And Emma is my favorite from Jane Austen, which says a lot since the only one I wasn’t fond of was Sense & Sensibility.

    • Emma is also my favorite Austen, although Persuasion comes very close. East of Eden is what I envision a novel should be: monumental in displaying human values, redemption theme, and love.

  2. I really liked this post Matt. I read both of those Steinbeck novels ages ago and I’m sure they’re due to be read again!! Out of all of the books you listed and the ones that we share in common…I love A Fine Balance most!

    • I am saving Grapes of Wrath for later because I know how great of a novel it is after East of Eden. Rohinton Mistry becomes another favorite author after A Fine Balance. I’m looking forward to reading his other works.

  3. This is an excellent reading list. I’ve read a few, own a couple and now have a few more added to my TBR list.

  4. I need to just print this out and keep it in my purse. The only book I’ve read on your list is Fingersmith, and I would put that on my top of my list as well.

  5. I’m so happy to see A Fine Balance and Fingersmith on your list – both are my favourites. Saramago is also a favourite, but I haven’t read Death with Interruptions yet.
    It sounds as though I need to add Lives of the Circus Animals to my wishlist – I think I’d love it.

    Great list!

    • Lives of the Circus Animals is so much lighter and more contemporary than the others. It’s New York in the 2000s. It”s the kind of book with so many characters that slowly and deftly they will cross one another’s path.

  6. I love Of Mice and Men…such a sad book…but even sadder is that I think that is the only one on your list that I have read.

    Fingersmith is one I really have to read. I see blogger after blogger wax on about it….like several who commented before me.

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